Ben Sones' crappy review of Warcraft III

Subtitle of Ben Sones review of Warcraft 3 in CGM:

Real time strategy without so much strategy

Quote from review:

Admidst this distinguished company [AOE, Kohan, Myth] Warcraft III seems like a dinosaur. It handles low-level tactics less elegantly than Myth, and on a strategic level it plays a lot like its seven year old predecessor.

As evidence that these completely ridiculous assertions are not true, I offer the following Warcraft 3 battle.net replays. All from tonight, arranged team games.

ftp://gamebasement.com/awesome_teamwork_3vs3.w3g
ftp://gamebasement.com/counter_rush_mania_2vs2.w3g

To play, copy them into your /replays folder under Warcraft 3. Then fire up WC3 (1.02 patch required) click “Single Player”, then “Replay”.

Watch and judge for yourself-- is it true that, as it says in the review, strategy isn’t one of Warcraft III’s strong suits? In the first replay, note that our team loses almost all the battles in the match. And yet we win the game. If that isn’t strategy, then I don’t know what is, ese. And best of all, the game is full of stuff like that-- dramatic, sweeping reversals of fortune are the order of the day. Clever players can come back from the ropes and kick your teeth out.

If you’ve played WC3 for any length of time, it seems laughable to argue that it brings nothing to the table in terms of strategy and tactics. The entire game was designed to move away from the crappy Starcraft rush paradigm which I frankly hated; it forces you to use less units more efficiently-- and more strategically.

Believe me, I was the biggest WC3 skeptic around. I wasn’t shy about telling people that it was probably going to suck, be completely repetitive, and little more than Starcraft in 3D.

I ended up downloading some videos of fights between Alucard and Pussnboots and came to the realization that Warcraft III can be played on a tactical level, its just that 99% of the people who play the game don’t want to do so, and the people who do are too much of a challenge for me to even bother. Still, it was impressive to see someone go 15 minutes into the game without a barracks.

Why play Warcraft III when I can play Battlefield 1942 anyway ;)

I was playing my buddy awhile back, and he was playing as the night elves. He’d uprooted several of his buildings and was proceeding to kick my teeth in. Most of my base was destroyed, but rather than following the peasants (and one hero, who I managed to resurrect just before my altar was destroyed) that were heading north, he wanted to finish off my existing base.

Well, I managed to get my other hero resurrected, and used some items I’d collected to summon some elementals, and a red drake, to keep him at bay long enough to build up a little bit of an army. With a couple of heroes and a small army (most of his army had been defeated by this point, leaving just his uprooted buildings), I managed to come back and take him out.

When I do play I usually pick Night Elves not really for the Huntress thing (while that is potent) but for the crazy ass trees. Gives a whole new meaning to tower rush. In any case I play rarely. I don’t care enough about the game to practice against the Battle.Net idiots and the game’s single player just doesnt have enough pull for me.

Of course it doesn’t help that I have played probably every RTS title under the sun over the past 3 years. Im pretty sick of the genre in general.

I ended up downloading some videos of fights between Alucard and Pussnboots and came to the realization that Warcraft III can be played on a tactical level, its just that 99% of the people who play the game don’t want to do so, and the people who do are too much of a challenge for me to even bother. Still, it was impressive to see someone go 15 minutes into the game without a barracks.

I think you’re exaggerating. 99 percent? Those 99 percent sure as hell aren’t playing against me in any battle.net matches I’ve been in recently. I have to fight tooth and nail to win almost every single game. Particularly once I got to around level 8. Hell, I wish the other guys were pushovers, it’d be nice to win consistently and have a record better than 50/50. Which is not bad at all by bnet standards, by the way.

The bnet auto-matching by skill works, big time. Except for the glaring “hey, I’ll start a new account and be level 1” hole in the system, it consistently delivers edge-of-my-seat competition.

Well I know how you are about debates, so I will just bow out early. I got my fill during our discussion about Kohan.

I have no problem with War 3 and its strategy. I just think it gets all too samey with Starcraft and adding the creeping aspect just makes it all the more clicky. A couple years ago I wouldn’t have cared, but its annoying to add an aspect of gameplay that FURTHER increases the need to have MAD CLICKING SKILLZ!, its still essentially a Starcraft rock/paper/scissors rts clone with some parts ripped off of WBC (the hero)!

Why didn’t they at least include better spell autocasting? Tab this, Ctr click that, 12 units per group?!?, less than 30 units per army?!? rushing build orders, low/high unit resource upkeep thingy, creeping, the importance of map memorization, blah blah blah… Chicks short review on this site sums up close to how I think of War3. Theres nothing new with it that makes it interesting to me.

Still War 3 will never lack of player competition. So if you’re one of those competitive rts player types, its probably the pinnacle of rts games.

etc

Why didn’t they at least include better spell autocasting?

Eh, they did the spells that matter. The key spells for each casting unit (like slow, bloodlust, heal, raise). The other spells are kinda specialized. But you could make the case that it could be further automated. Like priests should autocast dispel on groups of raised skeletons.

Tab this, Ctr click that

I rarely if ever use the tab thing. And I’m pretty damn good. Ctrl click? What is that? You use alt+right click to force units to run out of formation, eg, as fast as possible. Like no waiting for the goofy ass catapult to bring up the rear. Anyway I rarely want or need to deal with the subgroups in my group. You can just click the portrait of the unit at the bottom of the screen if necessary… easier than clicking a unit in battle, anyway.

12 units per group?!?, less than 30 units per army?!?

Well, the 12 number is arbitrary. It is aggravating not to be able to select my 14 or 16 units together. No less aggravating than Apple deciding they want a one button mouse I suppose.

But I totally agree with the focus on hard unit limits. This was one of my proposals to make TA a better game instead of the build-fest it tended to devolve into. FORCE people to only make a maximum of 5 of any unit, or better yet, limit them to 30 units total. Then you have some hard, meaningful choices.

ushing build orders,

One of the GREAT things about WC3 is that I’m finding the build order to be relatively unimportant. Eg, you don’t need to build within 5 seconds of the best time ever to be competitive. Every race has quite good anti-rush abilities (burrows, militia, moon wells, spirit towers). Hell, just watch the second movie I linked. I call out my militia three or four times in that game and it totally saved our asses. WC3 games, barring total incompetence, are not decided by your build order.

low/high unit resource upkeep thingy,

I don’t notice a problem with the upkeep, personally. I rarely get to high upkeep, and low upkeep isn’t a gamebreaker, even with a single mine. Just +7 gold instead of +10… it’s sort of an equalizer, similar to giving a faster car to the slower driver in a racing game. It’s a great idea, and it works without being annoying. It moderates the “rich get richer” cycle which is endemic to so many RTS games, particularly your precious Kohan with its totally fucked up “free city with every attack!” design.

creeping

Not very different from the random enemies on the Kohan maps. The creeps also serve an important function: enemies can’t just waltz over with 1 peon and build a mine wherever they damn well please. They have to clear it first. This is a huge change in the gameplay dynamic-- for the better.

If you’re referring to levelling up your hero, you can do it by fighting the enemy or the creeps. Both have pros and cons. There is a certain element of randomness this adds to the maps which I find intriguing. Ultimately the creeps are just another resource on the map to be harvested, or not, depending on your strategy.

the importance of map memorization

How is this not true of any rts? Or any game, really? FPS, driving, you name it. I wouldn’t call it memorization so much as familiarity. What I do object to is the bullshit map tricks, like plopping catapults down on some tiny little gap in a wooded hill near your base and blowing up your mine. That’s annoying.

Chicks short review on this site sums up close to how I think of War3.

If it doesn’t have skirmish mode easy enough for Tom to beat, then it’s crap. Great review. It’s absolute genius.

In related news, I find skirmish totally easy now. They still should have added a difficulty slider to skirmish, though.

Theres nothing new with it that makes it interesting to me.

Except for everything you just listed. May not be interesting to you, but it is a new design, specifically, an attempt to address all the problems with Starcraft and evolve the genre. And it’s a successful attempt.

I’ve said it before… Warlords Battlecry II had WC3 beaten in everything but graphics months and months ago.

I bought WC3, and I just can’t get into it. I’ve tried and tried. The team I play with is infatuated with it - so I haven’t played with them in about 3 weeks other than when they get out the 1942 demo. If they were playing Battlecry II, I’d be there every night.

War 3 is a solid game still. Maybe I’m just not a WC rts type fan. I liked Starcraft and War 2, but I never got into them as much as say TA, CnC or AoE. But yeah, its at least a say 4/5 or 8/10 or in Gamespot terms a 8.5435/10, so I’m not saying its terrible. There’s a tight balance to it, but it feels a bit … ah just missing something that makes it cool to me.

I’m really thinking AoM might be my game moreso War3.

etc

I think I’ve got it pinned why I don’t like War 3 as much… its because I dont get a thrill with the combat. Its just too small scale and feels out of control imo. I like massive battles in an rts. War 3 battles it feels blobby.

etc

That statement (taken out of context by wumpus) refers to the single-player game, which is composed almost entirely of puzzle scenarios that have maps full of winding corridors that herd you from point A to point B in a roughly linear progression and goals that typically have one workable solution. I enjoyed the single-player game. It was fun (sorry, Tom). But it wasn’t particularly strategic.

The multiplayer game is certainly more strategic by necessity, since it provides open maps and lacks the story elements that drive the solo game. In fact (as I mentioned in the review), I wish that it had included more of those story elements, because as it stands it plays pretty much like Warcraft II or Starcraft with a smaller scale (which, as I also mentioned, I like) and new races. That’s not a bad thing–those were both excellent multiplayer games. After all the neat stuff they did with the solo game, however, the multiplayer portion felt like a bit of a letdown. It was like they ran out of new ideas, and decided to simply recycle some old ones. I enjoy it, but I think they could have done more with it (and I think users WILL do more with it–that editor is pretty slick).

Sorry you thought the review was so crappy, wumpus. It’s just my opinion (and still is).

Just about ANY RTS game ever coded can, under certain optimal conditions, with quality players, demonstrate “deep” strategy/tactics. The question is: how well does the game force the average player to use his brain, as opposed to rotely hammering his way through an optimal build queue and spewing out an certain unit en masse?

Having seen more NE Huntress rushes than I care to imagine, I’d say WC3 is on the low end of the totem pole when it comes to making strategy/tactics an integral part of every game played. I’m sure that two sharp players could make Dominion look deep, but I’m likewise sure that the average rush monkey will get his ass handed to him by another average Joe using strategy in Kohan AG.

The differece is that considering the majority of players (even here) don’t have time to ‘master’ a game of considerable complexity, raising the bar so that only the uber have a chance, is one of the best ways to kill the popularity of a game before it even gets off the ground. Empire Earth was a game, in multiplayer, where knowing the specifics and build orders of the game gave such an advantage an uber-l33t could beat 4 or 5 intermediates alone. Even in games like Starcraft or Age of Kings this would never have been possible. Homeworld too was a game that was potentially far more complex in that same sense. Both games had tiny multiplayer communities.

Its worth pointing out that the larger the game playing base is the faster the games’ imbalances will be discovered and the paths of least resistance forged, and with recorded games Mr. Random Internet Noob can accelerate much faster in skill by just copying discoveries made by top players; whereas the smaller the community the slower the min/max’ers take to find the best fit solution. Often a ‘deep’ niche game hasn’t been subjected to the rigourous shakedowns of a huge player base and inmigrating hardcore players, so the best-fit strats are still unwritten and the illusion of depth enhanced.

So its better to have the depth disguised or hidden deeper into a game than have it tossed in your face because the great unwashed masses wont be driven away. Top players still excel at War3 just like they always have, but random internet newbie is still having fun as well. Remember RTS games have always been limited, and will always be imo, because of the necessity of having to move junk around in real time, and often ‘perfect’ games (games with very hard counters, for ex), are so micro dependant the game is unplayable for the majority. I think the whole ‘RTS games have no strategy’ is just a Red Herring of the disenchanted grogs whom can’t or don’t have the eye-hand skills to compete.

Huntresses are imbalanced - thats just a flaw in numbers and not an insurmountable issue. A better way to look at it is ‘can i beat random internet huntress spammer newbie?’. Try to outplay them and see what happens ^^. (id suggest 3/3 ghouls + vampiric if your undead; the hardest matchup vs. NE imo).

Having seen more NE Huntress rushes than I care to imagine, I’d say WC3 is on the low end of the totem pole when it comes to making strategy/tactics an integral part of every game played. I’m sure that two sharp players could make Dominion look deep, but I’m likewise sure that the average rush monkey will get his ass handed to him by another average Joe using strategy in Kohan AG.

The funny thing is, you see less and less of the mindless one-unit rush as you migrate up in level on battle.net. It’s just not an effective tactic, ultimately; a group of 4 huntresses backed up by 3 dryads and and a bear (for roar) is far more dangerous than a group of 8 huntresses alone. Inexperienced players don’t realize this. Which is why they get stuck at level 3 - 5…

Anyway, Blizzard has gone on record saying that they designed the game to force players to use multiple types of units rather than massing a single unit, and if you watch better players, you’ll see that this is definitely true. The backup units are every bit as important as the primary melee guys. Inexperienced players may not realize this, but it’s true. Yet another part of the design that works exactly as designed. It’s great.

Definitely. That group of huntresses goes down really fast when my sorceresses polymorph and slow them and my riflemen focus fire them out of existance. Every team has some great combos, but the humans have my favorites. Rifles, knights, sorcs, and priests all team up in different ways to great effect. Maybe throw in a mortar or two and/or some tanks for base assualt. With the Archmage at the helm, they can do damage in so many ways.

Unfortunately, in the midst of all this “balance”, an army made entirely of mortar teams is rarely effective. I had high hopes that my “mass mortar” strategy was going to earn me all kinds of internet fame…

I’ve won more than a few battles by being in the right place at the right time; attacking with defended footmen behind an orc army attacking my ally for ex., hitting his shamans from behind. And oftentimes ive been caught behind a maze of buildings and cut to pieces during an assault. One of my favorite tricks in team games is to hide my whole NE army and wait for my ally to catch up - this really throws the enemy as to whether to just leave or sit around and wait for the sun. (you do need a PoTM for this tho).

One little secret the humans have is careful use of Blizzard whilst creeping. Ordinarily one thinks Blizzard is too sloppy an AoE for that function but notice it highlights exactly those units affected, so for tough creeps you can safely blizzard them with some aiming. This also works well during battles too. Ive wiped out whole armies with Blizzard under the right conditions. The Archmage is overpowered but Humans need something effective so oh well ^^.